Pizza Trends of 2011

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As we edge closer to 2012, taking stock of the past year and the trends that were help to orient us in the ever-evolving pizza landscape. If there is one thing that I learned in 2011 it is to look to the home kitchens of Slice'rs for what's really taking hold. It isn't always some innovative new way to rework the cheese, sauce, and dough combo, but rather giving new life to tried and true styles and varieties, and in doing so, introducing folks coming from many different pizza backgrounds to pizzas that are totally new to them. Here are some of the trends we've noticed in the past year, and a look at possible trends to come. What have you noticed transpiring in the pizzaverse?

"It's Hip to Be Square"

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I guess it was Huey Lewis and The News that said it, but I am going to attribute this quote to olsonmatt who really captured the essence of what has been shaking things up on the home pizza-making scene with his comment here. (If you didn't read the thread in Talk that dmcavangh started about the pizza pendulum swinging in new direction, DO.) But square pies have been blowing up. Whether they are Sicilian, grandma pies, or Roman in nature, a quick flip through the My Pie Monday galleries reveals that square pies are in. That's not to say that Neapolitans are out. But there is something to be said for being able to more easily replicate the delicious sheet pan proofed pies in a home oven, rather than being limited by heat capacity when it comes to reaching the pinnacle of how great your homemade pie can be. I suspect that there will be more to come in the square pie trend. If you haven't gotten in on the action yet, you can try your hand at the Sicilian or sfincione style recipes that Kenji did in some of his 2011 Pizza Labs.

Bonci Mania

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If there is one man that makes a case for veering your firings away from Neapolitan-style pies, it's Rome's hottest pizza idol, Gabriele Bonci. He's kind of like the Beatles of pizza except he's only one guy and he's Italian. But his prolific variety of pizza al metro slices have captured the attention of the pizza-loving audience. Here at Slice we started seeing some Pizzarium-inspired pies cropping up at the beginning of the year when Norma427 started introducing them into her My Pie Monday rotation. Throughout the year other Slice'rs like Jimmyg began to throw in a Bonci-style pie here and there. And when Nick Solares visited this past fall, he confirmed that all the mania was merited. Watch the master work his magic here.

Going Pro

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This past year
we watched Caleb Schiff transform his passion for pizza into a business, making Arizona even more worthy of being a pizza pilgrimage state. This is one of the most exciting trends: to watch Slice'rs go from home pie-maker to pro. Some other names that come to mind are Paulie Gee, Will Fain, Casey Cyrnes, and Noel Brohner. This is definitely a trend we are anxious to see more of, and it looks like we will with Passion-4-Pizza's exciting news that Lillian and Cary are going pro!

Pizza Fried and True

Forming the Cornicione

This is a revelation. Another example of reaching beyond the Neapolitan pizza pinnacle. Glory be! What do you get when you mix America's favorite food—uh, that would be PIZZA—and America's favorite cooking method—FRYING? You get a little slice of heaven. When I first saw Adam's review of the Montanara at Forcella, I freaked out a little. He hooked me with, "Imagine a very good Margherita pizza, with a bright, zingy sauce and some incredible house-made mozzarella but with a foundation reminiscent of one of those fried-dough wonders you only see at the state fair--at once crisp, chewy, moist, and puffy in only that way fried breads get." Sweet Jesus. My resolution in 2012 is to get that pie in my mouth, even if I have to make it at home—you can too: here's how. But frying tempura slices has also cropped up more than once this year, on both the east and west coast. And speaking of tempura, who can forget TEMPURONI?! Maybe that hasn't taken off totally, but I for one think we'll all be looking back this time next year naming Adam Kuban a real innovator. He knows no bounds. Consider the garlic knot! See what I mean. Innovator. But I didn't need to tell you that.

Breakfast Pizza

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Yes, everyone has been eating pizza for breakfast ever since people first had pizza and lots of libations for dinner. It's a natural hangover helper. And, yes, eggs on pizza have been making the rounds for a couple years now. But, what seems to have been given more of a go in the last year is pizzas served at restaurants for breakfast and (even more so) brunch. There were places that served pizza and there were places that did brunch. Then there was Motornio. Now more than a few places that serve pizza are serving pizza for brunch. I don't know if this trend will hold, as a couple of pizza places that had initiated brunch service have since pulled it, like Paulie Gee's. But from San Francisco, to Portland, to New Orleans, we've seen brunch pizzas making an appearance.

Trend Predictions 2012

Where will pizza take us in the year to come? Some are thinking that old school pizzerias will be the new school of pizza. In that thread I mentioned earlier about the pizza pendulum Kenji says, "I'd wager that in the next couple years, at least here in NYC, we'll see a proliferation of more old school NY slice joints (like Best Pizza, for example), rather than new Neapolitans." I also think the pie revival will continue. In our insatiable quest for more and delicious ways to enjoy pizza, we can find ourselves looking back for new ideas.

Mobile pizza-making has enjoyed a growth spurt at farmer's markets all over the country. But if there's no market, then there's no pizza. For that reason, I hope we see more mobile pizza trucks, like Casey's roving rig, in the year to come.

This may be wishful thinking on my part, but I would like to go ahead and take this opportunity to call a return to French bread pizza. I've got a feeling and sometimes you have to go with your gut.

Here's to more pizza, in whatever shape it takes, in 2012!

About the author: Meredith Smith is the Slice editor. You can follow her on Twitter: @mertsmith.

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